Monday, July 13, 2015

Father Dyer Peak and Crystal Peak

Father Dyer Peak
I wasn’t able to make an ascent on Father Dyer last weekend, so this weekend I made a return trip to the Crystal Basin to climb the East Ridge. Ryan was up for a scramble so we made plans to attempt the Crystal Basin group of Father Dyer, Crystal Peak and Peak 10.  We had an early departure from the Denver area and made our way to the Breckenridge area by 7am.

From the standard Spruce Creek TH (39.436909, -106.050611) we started making our way to the Spruce Creek 4WD TH (39.428680, -106.069556).  The gate for Crystal Road (39.435797, -106.053966) was open for the first time this year, so we decided to give it a shot.  This road is pretty narrow and steep, but it does go all the way to Lower Crystal Lake.  After about a mile it was too much for my Blazer, so I found a spot to park it in the trees and that would be our trailhead for the day.  If I were to come back I would just drive to the Spruce Creek 4WD TH and start from there.  The Crystal Road is pretty bad in the steeper sections.

False Summit of Father Dyer
By 7:30 a.m. my heels were all taped up and we were heading up the road.  From our start the road was pretty steep, so we both got the blood moving pretty fast. About a mile from the start we reached tree line at around 11,300 feet.  We continued up the road to Lower Crystal Lake at around 12,000 feet.  There was one creek crossing that was still a little bit challenging, but we were able to cross without getting too wet.

It took us about an hour to make our way to Lower Crystal Lake.  Here there is a split (39.436016, -106.088639)– if you take the road to the right that is the route directly to Crystal Peak, if you take the old mining road to the left that heads to the East Ridge of Father Dyer.   So, go to the left and follow the road till it makes a bend (39.433191, -106.090134) to the east onto the rock glacier.  From here it is a cross-country route with some nice scrambling to the summit of Father Dyer.

Ryan Making His Way Up The East Ridge
Follow the edge of the rock glacier till there is a nice opening heading up the slope to the west.  After making your way through some large rock outcroppings the terrain turns more to grass and levels out for a bit.  You will soon find yourself at the base of the rocky East Ridge and this is where the scrambling starts.  We took a long break here in order to fuel up for the climbing ahead of us.  This route stays in the lower class 3 level and would be a great place to introduce new climbers to some solid rock.

We had a goal of summiting at 10am, which would have us climbing at about 1,000ft and hour.  This was a high expectation considering today was Ryan’s first day at high elevation, and we both were taking our time checking out the cool rocks along the route.  There was more than one occasion where we had to stop and rock hound the pegmatite veins.  We were pulling terminated crystals out of veins and on the surface.  Soon I found my pack was loaded with minerals and we were still on the ascent.  If I grab rocks or minerals I like to usually do it after peaking, but these were just too beautiful to leave behind.  I think both of us will be back just to rock hound the area at a later date.

Ryan Seems To Be Having Fun
Getting back to the scramble...  We stayed true to the ridge for the most part.  There were a few ledges and narrow sections with moderate exposure that required some attention, but nothing that a rookie couldn’t handle.  I would say the crux would have been climbing up and over one of the notches mid-ridge, but overall it was very basic class 3 climbing.  As you follow the rest of the route, it leads you to the large false summit that was visible earlier from Lower Crystal Lake.  As you are climbing the ridge and glance to the south there is a large arête, and that is the true summit of Father Dyer.  From the false summit it is a rocky ridge walk to the true summit of just a few hundred yards.  On the summit there is a plaque commemorating the 100th anniversary of Father Dyer of the United Methodist Church.

The view of Pacific is well worth the climb alone.  It is a very impressive looking mountain that needs to be inspected in the near future.  We took a short breather, and Ryan made friends with a couple of pikas.  Soon we were off on the ridge towards Crystal.  From Father Dyer it is less than a mile to Crystal.  The ridge is covered in large boulders which made the moving slow.  It took us a little over an hour to go from summit to summit.  As we were making our way we monitored the weather to the south.  There was a good amount of precipitation coming down on Elbert.  We got a few graupel pellets on us, but nothing more than that.  The weather didn’t look too promising so we decided to skip Peak 10 today.  I was up on Crystal and Peak 10 last week so it didn’t bother me too much.

Pacific Peak
We took a few minutes on Crystal’s summit.  I took the tape off my feet.  I think my boots are finally broken in so I can forego the tape from here on out.  We started down to the saddle between Crystal and Peak 10 around 12:30 pm.  It was a little rough making our way through the boulders but once on the saddle the terrain eased up a bit.  Another 600 foot drop had us on the trail that ends at Upper Crystal Lake.  We followed the trail till it started switchbacks then made our way cross country till connecting with the Wheeler Trail.  This saved us some mileage from following the road all the way down and was more interesting in the open country.

Once on the Wheeler Trail we followed it about half mile till meeting up with the Crystal Lake Road.  We were pretty much home free now with less than a mile down the road to the truck. Today was a great climb; one of my favorites in Colorado so far. I am still hoping to get in Pacific, Atlantic, Fletcher, Drift and North Star this summer.  The season is going well so far, and I hope to see some of you on the mountains.  Cheers!

GPS Track
Date: July 11, 2015
TH Elevation: 10,747 feet
Father Dyer Summit: 13,596 feet
Crystal Peak: 13,822 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 3,200 feet
Distance: 7.31 miles
Moving Time: 5hrs
Stopped Time: 2hrs 15min

Climbing Partner: Ryan

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